Environmental art prize with global impact

Calling all artists and designers: this national art prize is looking for innovative ideas for the future.

Artists and designers Australia-wide can be a part of the conversation around our environment, adding amplification to one of the world’s most urgent topics, while also garnering career visibility.

The Environmental Art & Design Prize is open to painting, photography, digital media, ceramics, functional and textile design and more, and is an annual non acquisitive award with nine categories and a prize pool over $40,000.

The prize’s exhibition of finalist artworks is presented by Manly Art Gallery & Museum, and it is again calling for entries.

ArtsHub spoke with artist Belinda Piggott, winner of last year’s Small Sculpture category for a collaborative work with Helen Earl. She said the prize offered ‘a confirmation’ that they were heading in a good direction with their work.

Piggott and Earl’s winning work titled, Carbon credits (2021), triggered a new series that combined Earl’s interest in plant-based materials and Piggott’s fascination with kelp – both receptors to fluctuating carbon emission levels.

‘Getting the feedback from colleagues and peers, and senior people in the biz, was a great affirmation, and really helpful to our making,’ added Piggott of the prize experience.

Piggott said that as an artist plying her craft in this challenging time , the timing ‘felt right’ to enter, especially with the 2030 agenda set by the United Nations.

‘It is only eight years now until 2030, so this is a very important art prize.’ She continued: ‘Bringing these works together for the prize – all these artists together and the viewers – it really widens that conversation, and you get so many more ideas and impetus to make things happen.’

Piggott made the point that artists are often the first to take on ‘difficult subjects’.

‘Art is a great portal to open up new ideas and new conversations. There were really interesting materials and processes explored by the artists from around the country – it wasn’t just a local thing. Artists from all over Australia were represented in the prize and it was just a wonderful opportunity to open up thinking,’ she added.

Installation view 2021 Environmental Art & Design Prize exhibition at Manly Art Gallery & Museum, with Helen Earl and Belinda Piggott’s winning work, Carbon credits, 2021 (right). Photo by Greg Piper.


The Environmental Art & Design Prize  was established to share innovative ideas for the future.

‘I think the language of art and design is one that connects – and can connect through different ways. For example, to attract the eye with something beautiful and engage people’s attention to then carve out a bit of space to consider something that they may not before, and to open the mind to new ideas.

‘I love that! And I love that it is not just an art prize but that it is design and interdisciplinary practice as well. The more interest we can generate the more action we can promote, Piggott told ArtsHub.

Categories for the prize include: Ceramics & small sculpture; digital, film & video; interdisciplinary collaboration; painting; works on paper & photography; wearable design; functional design and young artists & designers.

‘Helen and I have been talking for many years about doing a collaboration; we were working with similar materials, but this prize actually gave us the impetus to resolve the work, and a deadline to work towards,’ said Piggott.


While the theme is certainly topical for a world suffering under the pressures of climate change, Piggott says the prize is timely for another reason.

‘Especially the last couple of years, art prizes have been some of the very rare opportunities for artists to exhibit, that is why they are top of my list,’ Piggott told ArtsHub.

She continued: ‘Art prizes help with career boosting – to bring artists that may not be recognised into closer view – but especially this one, that closer view is also exploring an interesting topic. That makes this prize a little unique.’

With regard to tips on entering an art prize, the winning artist said: ‘There are some artists who just reposition an existing work to make it fit with the theme. I think it needs a bit more consideration than that.’

‘The artist is duty bound to consider what is really behind the theme, and delve deep to connect with its ideas and bring relevance to your reason for making that work of art. You have to be genuine!’

Piggott said that by nature of what artists do, it is usually a natural evolution that the works entered into a prize reflect their broader practice.

‘Making this work last year – which is now the first in a series of work – triggered a new language that connects across our practice more broadly. It was a natural fit. Now we have started virtually embedding carbon credits in our work.’


2022 Prize entries open March 15 – May 11 2022.

Exhibition of finalist work 5-28 August 2022.

The exhibition of finalist works will be displayed at Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Curl Curl Creative Space and Mona Vale Pop Up Gallery in August 2022.

Winners to be awarded by the external judging panel of leading creative practitioners and thinkers.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina